Meg Forbes is a mum, freelance writer, and photographer living in the Redlands, South of Brisbane.
Published July 21st 2020
Two tutorials from reputable health sources
Internationally, and within Australia, people are increasingly being encouraged to wear face masks when out in public. This is seen as particularly when people are in indoor areas with poor ventilation such as when using public transport, or when dining inside restaurants.
Australians are increasingly being advised to wear facemasks when they leave home
This issue moved closer to home this week with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews advising that from Wednesday 22 July 2020 at 11:50pm people living in Metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire would need to wear a face mask when leaving the house, with some exceptions. Since then, the New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has advised that people in New South Wales should consider wearing a face mask when in locations where social distancing measures cannot be followed.
While this advice aims to protect the public by inhibiting the spread of Covid19, many people in Australian and elsewhere have struggled to find face masks in local shops, and delivery from online stores may take some time. In response, an increasing number of make your own face mask at home type videos have begun to circulate the internet. This may leave people wondering, which tutorials can I trust?
As a result, the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released step by step tutorials for making face masks with a sewing machine, and without for those who don't sew. There is also a video with step by step instructions presented by Dr Jerome Adams, US Surgeon General here:
Make your own no-sew face mask tutorial provided by the CDC
Here in Australia, the Victorian State Government's Health and Human Services have similarly recognised the need for some people to make their own masks, and released a step-by-step tutorial here. This tutorial uses items that are easy to find in most homes to construct the face masks, including exercise clothing, green shopping bags, and shoelaces.
Victoria's State Government guidelines for constructing a face mask at home
Thanks to these two tutorials, from international and Australian peak health bodies, it is now possible for almost anyone to safely construct a face mask at home, helping to keep themselves and everyone around them safer by helping to reduce the spread of Covid19.
The mask-making information given by CDC appears to be selected more for ease-of-sewing than effectiveness; fit appears to be as important as the properties of the fabrics used. Although breathability is important (as too air-tight a fabric creates a vacuum which pulls in and expels air around the sides fo the mask, stretchy materials like t-shirt material fluctuate in the size of the holes and are thus not an effective barrier. We don't yet have reliable evidence from either official sources or clinical trials on how to home-make the most effective mask.
According to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the very breathable fabrics are a good choice, like common t-shirt materials. They tend to have low droplet resistance, and their efficiency increases when used in a two-layer mask. The net breathability of the two layers is much higher than the medical masks, too. In fact, the breathability of cotton T-shirt fabrics remains higher than a medical mask, even with three layers.